Commentary, News

NC should act promptly to follow federal lead by altering unemployment insurance rules

Thanks to changes imposed by Republican lawmakers over the last decade, North Carolina has had the stingiest unemployment insurance system in the country for some time. Today, less than 9% of the unemployed collect the average (and paltry) weekly benefit of $264. With hard economic times at our doorstep, this needs to change right away.

Fortunately, even the ideologues in the Trump administration have grasped this obvious fact. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new guidance to states that should allow an important change to eligibility for people who become unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is from a Reuters news story summarizing the change:

The U.S. Labor Department on Thursday gave states flexibility to amend their laws to provide unemployment benefits in events related to the coronavirus in an effort to limit the damage on the economy from the pandemic.

States can pay benefits in cases of temporary unemployment because the coronavirus is preventing employees from coming to work. Individuals quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over can also receive unemployment benefits as well as those leaving employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.

North Carolina needs to adopt several immediate changes to its unemployment insurance system (e.g. increasing benefit amounts, extending the time period that people can remain eligible) to make it truly accessible and valuable to the unemployed and to help prop up the economy during hard times, but a quick implementation of the new changes spelled out yesterday by the federal government for people impacted by the coronavirus outbreak is an obvious first step.


  1. Jon

    March 14, 2020 at 9:45 am

    I was laid off Thursday and am finding the unemployment system here extremely unhelpful. I recently moved back to NC after spending time studying out of state. I started work in Dec and was laid off in March so according to the wage requirements I am not even eligible for benefits until April. I wasn’t making making a great deal of money but the $2,500+ I grossed a month was enough to pay my bills. Obviously I haven’t received any benefits yet but when/if I do I am looking at less than $200 a month. That’s barely enough to eat on no less pay my bills. I don’t have any savings. I am staring at a hopeless situation.

  2. Julie Owen

    March 14, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Currently you cannot even create a new account to apply for unemployment. It just loops you around between inputting your social security number and choosing employee/employer status and then back again. It has been like this for the last week and a half and has made it impossible to even apply for unemployment. What is worse is the work search requirements are unrealistic during this outbreak. Why on earth would someone apply for a food service job when they are caring for someone that is sick? Or worse apply for a minimum wage job that pays less then half of what you were making and actually makes it worse because you are earning half of what you used to at twice the hours and on top of that driving further. It ends up costing you more money as the applicant and is unrealistic in a lot of situations.

  3. Kim Perkins

    March 14, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    What is the State of NC doing about American worker’s and COVID 19 ? Is NC following Federal guidelines ? Thank you and hope our Gov will clarify during this virus pandemic.

  4. Patti

    March 15, 2020 at 9:02 am

    Can I apply if I’m self employed? I am now out of work due to the virus

  5. Kate

    March 15, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    In response to the COVID19 pandemic, the federal DOL site is one page of propaganda lavishing praise on the president with only one nugget of relevant information – that state unemployment offices have the ability to create plans to address people who may be experiencing a lack of work due the situation.
    Go to the NC site and you can find nothing. Call the NC offices and there is no recording to address it either. If I am missing it, I stand corrected, I just couldn’t find it.
    For once, could NC be pro-active in addressing the concerns of all their citizens, especially those who may experience significant financial distress under the current conditions?

  6. Paul

    March 16, 2020 at 11:46 am

    I’ve been out of a job since late January. My claim is still awaiting the initial stage of adjudication some 8 weeks later. It is absolutely ridiculous. This is the first time I’ve been out of a job over 30 years.

  7. Nick

    March 16, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    Is it possible to give information without sounding like a completely biased ideologue yourself?

  8. KCG

    March 22, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    Is Governor Cooper Raising the Cap on Weekly Benefits?? If we go from $1200 plus gross a week too $350 were done! I heard the president was lifting this for all states and ppl should get their rate while they working. Is this still true??


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